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Rong Bao

Rong Bao is a multidisciplinary artist exploring the intersection of ecology, technology and overconsumption.

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06/05/2024

Artist profile

Artwork

Rong Bao is a Chinese-born multidisciplinary artist based between Beijing and London. Inspired by marine ecology, the rise of AI technology and her multicultural upbringing, Rong’s vibrant and quirky installations, paintings and sculptures pose incisive questions about overconsumption, conformity, and our relationship to nature. Her voluminous and buoyant structures, reminiscent of both biological organisms and familiar objects, prompt physical and sensory interaction between the viewer and the artwork. “I don't want my art to only have an aesthetic appeal” explains Rong, "but to offer tactile, and interactive experiences that prompt new ways of engaging with the absurdity of our world.”


After studying Public Sculpture at the China Academy of Art, Rong obtained a BFA from the School of the Art Institute Chicago followed by an MA in Sculpture at the Royal College of Art, London. Having lived in multiple countries, her exposure to a variety of cultures has significantly shaped Rong’s artistic practice. "I grew up in China,” explains Rong, “and I pursued art education in the USA and the UK. Throughout this journey, I discovered the diverse cultural landscapes of these countries; in some places I have encountered a strong emphasis on critical thinking, especially within visual culture, and in some, a reluctance towards it. Others embrace a rollicking sense of humour, while some are more sarcastic. All of these cultural nuances and differences have an impact on my work: self-mockery, recklessness and the rejection of conformity are all vital themes of my practice.”


Primarily using materials like plastic ballonets and ready-made objects to construct her installations, Bao amplifies the absurdity of everyday items by stripping them of their original context and function. Her piece, ‘Futile Accent’, that features a parcel repetitively tumbling on a conveyor belt, “satirises the contemporary industrial system and our constant desire to consume, by mocking the futility of our efforts” Rong explains. Despite her critical stance, Bao’s practice brims with hope and optimism; her vibrant sculptures and playful installations (including ‘Island’), create a utopian and idyllic world where art is accessible to everyone, both physically and intellectually. “I am very drawn to land art and large scale, site specific installations, because they evade the commercial environment and traditional categorisations - they cannot be owned or collected, and often they exist outside of the gallery space where everyone can enjoy them.” Rong’s signature, life-sized ‘floating’ works, resembling sea creatures with tentacles and utopian machines at the same time, play with the tension between organic and artificial. Inspired by the artist's experience of scuba diving back in China, and her interest in marine ecology and artificial intelligence, works like ‘Alien Rhapsody’ and ‘Enigma’ pose the question: “In a post-anthropocene era, where will humans stand?” Although Rong’s inflatable spatial interventions burst with imagination and vigour, to her they are mere prototypes of even grander ideas yet to be realised.“When I travelled to Antarctica,” says Rong, “I saw huge glaciers and I immediately thought art should be just like that, both in scale and ambition; similarly to when facing nature, it should evoke a sublime experience. This is what I strive for in my practice”


With her work now on show at the Saatchi Gallery until the 12th of May, Rong Bao is the first female Chinese artist to have a solo exhibition at the institution, where the audience gets to experience her subversive and utopian fantasy world.

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Alien Rhapsody

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Island

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